Monday, April 09, 2018

Why I’m not complaining and I'm happy for social channels to have my data.

So here we are, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica debacle, feeling data-defiled and as though we dropped the informational soap in social media prison, poised to delete our Facebook accounts. Honestly, get over it.

Facebook has done nothing you didn’t sign up for. The media are loving it and Zuckerburg is apologising left, right and centre in a year he was hoping to crack on and fix the unwieldy behemoth that his baby has become – it’s news. Giving our data away to Facebook and Facebook apps is something you and I signed up for. Did you not read the small print? Don’t worry, no one does.

We live in the information age. Arguably, with the possible exception of the industrial revolution, one of the most exciting times for the 'civilised' world. Facebook is an unavoidable part of the connectivity of the western world. It has over 2.13 billion monthly active users and Mr. Zuckerburg is worth about £50 billion. In the UK the highest number of users is 25 to 34-year-olds, with (in this age range alone) 5.2 million lasses and 5.5 million blokes using Facebook in any given month.

We’re addicted: posting; messaging; liking etc. boosts our social capital and decreases loneliness and isolation. Sure, we have those friends who are part of some digital underclass that aren’t on Facebook, but they don’t get invited to parties (events) and (let’s face it) we think they’re a bit weird unless they work as undercover cops or they’re in a religious cult that thinks “technology is evil” (which is also weird).

There’s a deep connection between Facebook and the reward centre of the human brain. It fuels our narcissistic streak (to whatever level) by giving us social affirmation, but it also keeps us in touch with friends, family, and colleagues. It lets us promote our causes, fight injustice, coordinate disaster efforts, reach our customers, remember birthdays, rekindle old friendships, share ideas, and connect with those who live far away. It’s also free and let’s face it - is the last thing we see at night and the first thing in the morning.

So here’s the thing. What about giving away our data in exchange for free connectivity? As someone who writes ad strategy, executes a metric f**k-tonne of social ads and has built numerous apps, this is a good thing. We are, essentially, the product. Get over it, that’s always how it has been. It’s the payoff and we sign up for it. How is this a revelation? Our data is what keeps Facebook free. People like myself use the information you give Facebook to create targeted advertising, and that’s the key word here, TARGETED. If you get random ads for things you’re not interested in that’s some marketing bod doing an awful job, not Facebook’s fault.

If someone exploits that data - they’re to blame, not Facebook. It’s the user who chooses to use Facebook Login to let all kind of sites use their data – LOADS of big companies from Apple to Android use this. Again, via the permissions we gave through agreeing to the terms and conditions we probably didn’t read.

Giving our data away is powerful. It makes information semantic so that it comes to us when (or before) we need it. It offers me deals on walking boots from Millets because there’s a sale on and they know I’ll be interested. It guides me to the information I’m interested in and chooses related videos for me to watch and local gigs I care about. It fuels my hobbies. It shows me other related communities and asks me if I’m interested. It brings me news I’m passionate about. It broadens my mind. It opens my horizons to new products and services. I want that. That’s a good thing, and important for the development of search and online marketing - if it works for business we'll fund it.

So don’t delete your Facebook profile. That’s just a knee-jerk reaction to the media and taking a pair of scissors to your nose. Sure, be pissed off with those who exploit our data against the rules, but our data helps us get what we need, without looking for it, and that’s something I want to be a part of. Facebook is free and useful. It's also learned from this and it'll evolve. Let’s blame the right people and get over it.

Crack on.